Like a whiny child that hates to share, the Disney Company has abruptly announced they are pulling out of their plan to build a Brightline train station on Disney property. “As many people who are involved in this project are aware, the new route configuration does not support a Disney Springs station and as a result, we don’t anticipate being part of this project,” Disney spokesperson Avery Maehrer recently told the Orlando Business Journal. Mr. Maehrer didn’t elaborate further, but like any good spokesperson he still managed to say very little and a whole lot at the very same time.
Currently running from Miami to West Palm Beach, the construction of Brightline’s passenger rail service extension to Orlando International Airport is 80 percent complete, and the first test train recently traversed the entire route. The Orlando airport station itself has been finished for quite a while, and the full completion of the rail corridor is slated before the end of the year, in time for passenger operations to begin in early 2023.
Meanwhile, planning is underway for more westward growth across the state, with Brightline’s latest plan being a straight shot west from the airport, along Route 528. Here it will encounter the various tourist destinations of International Drive, in close vicinity to the Orange County Convention Center, Sea World, Universal Studios, and a new theme park that Universal Studios is building called Epic Universe. Universal has donated 13 acres and funding to encourage that alignment, and a station is intended at the convention center. Brightline will then veer to the southwest, following I-4 and skirting Disney property toward where the Disney station would have been, at Disney Springs. I-4 then continues all the way to Tampa on Florida’s Gulf Coast, which is also the hope. With plans to bring Brightline out there, continuing down the I-4 would have just made sense.
But wait, didn’t the spokesperson say the new configuration does not support a Disney Springs station? That’s the thing though. Those not involved might assume he meant that Brightline wasn’t going anywhere near Disney World anymore, making the lack of a Disney station not Disney’s fault. When Disney previously announced their partnership with Brightline and the station, they were pushing Brightline for a more southerly route from the airport that would weave through the suburbs of Orlando and conveniently avoid any of Disney’s competitors, like Universal Studios, etc. Effectively, for millions of Orlando visitors, that section of Brightline would have been the train to Disney World as always excitable Disney fan press tagged it. A more central route, serving more people, and perhaps more crucially, a route giving them a station after Universal’s just isn’t good enough for Disney, which is one of Florida’s biggest corporate powers. In their minds, it can’t be a magical train to Disney World if it has stations at every other theme park on the way there first.
Feature photo via Brightline.